Chapter 1

Jenny looked at the clock for the seventh time in the last fifteen minutes. She finished applying the final coat of pink nail polish to her thumb and dropped the brush back into the bottle, screwing the cap on tight. She lifted her hand a few inches from her lips and blew gently across the wet surface.

Her eyes looked at the clock again: 2:18 am.

He had to be asleep by now, right? She and Nate had gotten in shortly after midnight and she had immediately hurried to the sanctity of her room, closing the door tight.

Since then she had reorganized her closet by color, straightened her room until it was immaculate, and painted her nails three times.

She glanced down at the frosted pink polish and then towards the row of nail polishes on her desk. Maybe burgundy was a better color.

"This is crazy," Jenny muttered, standing up. She started to pace across her floor, looking occasionally at the closed door.

Nate had to be asleep now.

I'll just go to the kitchen, grab a glass of water, and come back, she told herself, heading for the door.

Jenny stepped out into the hallway and held her breath for several seconds. Padding across the dark rooms, her eyes cut back and forth, watching for any signs of movement. Satisfied there was none, she scurried the remaining feet into the family room and froze, her breath coming out in a rush.

Of course he would be shirtless.

Nate was sitting in the dark, the picture from the TV casting strange shadows across his face. A small smile tugged at his lips as he watched her attempt at stealth.

"Nate!" she fairly squeaked. She cleared her throat, working to keep her voice at a whisper. "What are you still doing up?"

"Couldn't sleep," he replied, just as hushed.

"Oh," she mouthed, nodding. She forced her feet back into action, suddenly wishing she had grabbed her robe before leaving her room. Despite the dark, she felt oddly exposed in a thin camisole and pajama pants.

She walked around the bar to the refrigerator and snagged a bottled water. She looked up from the open door and showed him the drink. "Want something?"

He shook his head, his expression unreadable.

She closed the door to the refrigerator, and started her way back to her room.

"Jenny."

She paused mid-step, her heart pounding so hard in her chest she was sure he could hear it across the room. She turned to face him reluctantly.

Nate was studying her, his bright blue eyes intent. "I think we need to … talk."

She swallowed, suddenly wishing she had stayed in her room. "Talk. Right. Yeah, that's something we should … do." She unscrewed the cap of her water and took a generous swallow,

Nate moved the blanket away from one of the couch cushions on his makeshift bed for her to sit.

Jenny forced her feet into a forward movement until she was seated beside him, making sure they weren't touched. She leaned back against the couch, sinking comfortably into it as she pulled her knees up to her chest, resting her chin on them.

Nate muted the already minimal volume coming through the TV, but didn't face her. "About what happened tonight…"

Jenny closed her eyes, bracing for impact. She knew that kiss had been too good to be true. It was a fluke, a random moment born of crazy circumstances. After all, Nate was a senior and she was … what was she now? A sophomore, technically. An unemployed, home schooled sophomore who he had caught dancing in her underwear at some older guy's apartment.

Oh, God. This wasn't going to be good.

"Look, I think—"

"It was stupid," she blurted out, interrupting him.

Nate blinked and looked at her. "You think so?"

Jenny forced a thin smile. "Yeah. It was … impulsive."

"Right," Nate agreed quickly, nodding. "I just … I don't know if it's a good idea for us—"

"—start something while you're living here?" Jenny finished.

"Exactly." Nate grinned, his dimples carving deep depressions into his smooth jaw.

"I mean, we're friends," she went on, "and you really helped me out tonight."

His smile slipped slightly. "Jenny, what was that tonight?"

She winced, wishing she hadn't brought up her impromptu striptease. "That was me being stupid."

"I get that, but stripping in some random guy's apartment?" He frowned at her.

She bristled. "He's a friend."

"A friend that you've known for what? A week? And how old is that guy, anyway?"

Her jaw clenched. "Like I said, I was stupid. But last time I checked, I didn't answer to you."

Nate drew back as if she had slapped him. "I know that, Jenny, but I thought we were friends."

"We are friends," she replied stiffly, "but what I do with Agnes or whoever else I'm with is my choice."

"Well, as your friend, I think you need to be careful."

"Fine, OK. You're right, and I will be." She wrapped her arms around her legs, shivering.

Nate's eyes swept over her. "Are you cold?"

She shrugged. "I'm fine."

Nate grabbed the discarded fleece blanket he had pushed aside and tossed it to her. She wrapped it around her body and smiled.

"Thanks."

He grinned. "You're welcome."

Jenny held his gaze for several beats and then turned her gaze to the TV. "What are you watching?" Her nose wrinkled as she looked at the black and white picture.

Nate leaned back against the cushions. "City Lights." He turned off the mute and the upbeat music of the silent film came through the speakers.

Jenny giggled as a familiar character tripped across the screen. "Oh, my, God. You like Charlie Chaplin films?"

Nate pretended to be offended. "Hey, Chaplin's a comedic genius."

"I had no idea you were so into silent films," Jenny mused, her eyes stuck to the screen as Chaplin attempted to gain the attention of the young woman opposite him.

"My grandpa and I used to watch old Chaplin films. They were his favorite."

Jenny's eyes cut to Nate's face. She felt her lips curve into a smile at the content look on his face. He looked so relaxed, so at ease.

"So, what's going on?"

Nate turned and faced her. "Tramp—Chaplin—fell in love with the blind flower girl. Only problem is, the flower girl thinks he's some wealthy businessman who can help pay for an operation she needs to restore her sight."

She titled her head, amazed that he was truly into this movie. "OK. Well, does she fall in love with him?"

Nate shrugged and turned back to the movie. "Guess you'll have to watch and find out."

She clicked her tongue against her teeth for a moment, considering going back to her room and finishing the dress she had been working on. She looked back at Nate.

Sighing, Jenny stood up and looked down at him. "How about I make some popcorn?"

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Author's Note: I am estimating that several chapters of this fic will be NC-17. While I have rated this fic 'M', I will not be posting the NC-17 chapters here because (1) doesn't allow NC-17 fics and (2) there are too many minors reading fanfiction on here. The chapters will not alter the storyline in anyway. So, for my own peace of mind, the NC-17 chapters will be housed solely at my livejournal site under 'Friends Only' posts. That means in order to read them you will need to have a livejournal account (if you wish to get one, they're free), and you must friend me telling me that you are of age. Sorry for any inconvenience, guys. The website link to my LJ can be accessed on my profile page.

~Iz